“Teaching in Ghana; Experiencing a Different Learning Environment” is the title of an article written by Christine Ross, Teacher in the Elizabeth Fry Room. Her trip to Ghana was supported in part by a professional development grant from the MMFS Parents Association. The article is reprinted below.
Less than one week after finishing the school year at MMFS last June, I found myself in a school of dirt floors and no electricity in Tamale, Ghana. For the next four weeks, I taught reading, writing, math, and citizenship to a group of girls who had few opportunities and resources, but who were hardly short on enthusiasm and big ideas. I was reminded that in the absence of material goods, creativity and attention can still inspire growth.
The school was run by a non-profit organization, and it enrolled girls from villages where young women are generally denied an education. Many families cannot bear the financial burden of sending each of their children to school, and when push comes to shove, the sons are kept in school, while the daughters are kept at home. This organization not only provides the physical school building, but aims to provide uniforms, classroom materials, and food for each girl during the school year. Their income is not steady, and as a result, they often have to rely on donated notebooks and pencils from the volunteers who come to teach.
While well-meaning, the local teachers who work at the building year-round are untrained, and they do not have the means to attend college. They asked me to observe their classrooms and begged me to give them teaching tips. I went with some of the teachers to the internet café to help them learn how to use email. One of the most satisfying moments of my entire Ghanaian experience was receiving emails from them after I had returned home. My interactions with them made me more aware of the privileges of my background and education.
Despite the many superficial differences, I experienced moments every day that clarified one fact: kids are kids, no matter where in the world you find them. They try to get out of doing homework, they wonder about their futures, and they love to laugh, preferably loudly and with great gusto. Whether we were putting on a skit or learning new vocabulary, I was thrilled to be in that classroom. What a perfect opportunity this provided for me as I prepared for our diversity unit this year at MMFS. I felt privileged to experience so different a learning environment, but a learning environment nonetheless. I’m looking forward to sharing photographs and stories with my class. We can use them to discuss the obvious forms of diversity, things we can see on the surface, but more importantly, to discuss diversity of social structures and ways of life around the globe.
So, with a mind that occasionally wanders 5,000 miles away, I’m ready to start a new year at MMFS. I have a new appreciation for the resources and opportunities provided for the students and staff in this supportive environment. An example is the grant from the Parents Association that supports experiences such as this. What could students and teachers around the world accomplish if they had the same chance? How wonderful it would be to find out.